The first wave of Zapponians is about to land in downtown Las Vegas - 200 of the e-tailer's approximately 1,300 employees, to be exact.
The small group is the vanguard of a much larger invasion planned for sometime next year, when the old City Hall's remodel is complete.
Zappos has already outgrown its Henderson campus. Rather than expand into space closer to its current home, CEO Tony Hsieh decided to head downtown ahead of schedule. The company leased two floors at 302 E. Carson Ave. and renovated them to fit Zappos qualifications (moveable desks, high-top tables and whiteboards galore).
The move is a test run for the City Hall takeover planned for October 2013, said Patrick Olson, Zappos' senior manager of campus development. Every decision, from the moving process to the chair selection, will be evaluated to prepare for the big wave of Zappos employees.
"This is a great testing ground for some of the decisions we'll be making at City Hall," Olson said.
The new downtown space has couches, stand-up tables and collaborative conference rooms that cannot be reserved, all in keeping with Hsieh's philosophy of creating spaces for serendipitous interaction.
"Everything is meant to be really flexible and really mobile," Olson said.
Zappos social scientist Graham Kahr volunteered for the first wave. Kahr said he is already heavily involved in the downtown tech and social scene, and is interested in learning from and giving feedback to startups congregating in the neighborhood.
The move will be easy, Olson and Kahr said. Employees are packing boxes that movers will unpack and set up at the new office. At 8 a.m. on Monday, everything will be the same, but with a different view.
"It's a little bittersweet because you realize you won't see some people every day," Kahr said. "The upside of getting to be the first group, the first wave moving downtown, and kind of establishing our own culture in that building outweighs the sadness."
The first wave is also expected to cause a ripple in the downtown business community. Restaurant owner Art Viray, who 10 years ago set up his City Centre Cafe at 375 E. Lewis Ave., said he expects lunch orders from the new Zappos office will boost business. He plans to offer a 50 percent discount to Zappos employees.
"Business is down here in the downtown area, because unfortunately we have these catering trucks, two or sometimes three, that take away from our business," Viray said, referring to food trucks that set up shop in high-traffic areas. "With Zappos moving in the near future, hopefully there will be enough restaurants and enough income for everyone."
Unlike its Henderson campus, the downtown outpost won't have a full-service cafe. That means nearly 200 employees trekking out to lunch every day.
"There's going to be a lot of extra impact," Olson said.
There may also be some stress on limited downtown parking. Olson said there will be a few free options for Zapponians: an adjacent lot, the former City Hall parking garage and other privately owned garages near Carson Avenue and Third Street.
Contact reporter Caitlin McGarry at cmcgarry@review journal.com or 702-387-5273.